Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Devil is in the detail

One of my business school professors used to say that the ‘devil was in the detail’ ie that small thing in plans and schemes are overlooked, causing big problems later on.  It’s only lately that I’ve appreciated the several layers of meaning in this expression.

As a cross-dressing teenager I was desperate to wear girl’s clothes.  So much so, that like many, I wished I could become a girl.  At that time – way before transgenderism was out of its closet – it seemed to me the only possibility would be to ‘sell my soul to the devil’ in grand Henry James fashion.  So, in addition to hopelessly mooning outside department store windows, I took to sifting through dusty tomes in the reference section of the local library.  Hoping to find a spell, a miracle to let me be and do my heart’s desire.  If I could have sold my soul to the devil then, in return for being to change my sex at will, I surely would have done so.  (I’d already tried praying, and knew that God wasn’t planning to help anytime soon.)

In the classic stories, the hero sells his soul in a midnight pact on a deserted cross-roads.  At first it appears he gets what he asked for – riches or whatever, but somehow the devil tricks him.  “I wouldn’t sell my soul for all the tea in China”, says the hero.  “Wouldn’t you?” say the devil.  “Hmm” thinks our hero, “that’s a lot of tea.  Well, yes OK.” And is promptly buried under a giant mountain of tea, crates, and all.  (In a jokier version, our hero asks for a penis long enough to touch the floor.  And then wakes up in hospital with no legs). 

Recently I was cogitating, and half-regretting I’d failed all that time ago.  Wouldn’t my life have been so different if I’d found the right book?  And then I started to wonder whether I’d actually succeeded. And had found the ancient spells, And chanted the strange Latin words at midnight in a chalked pentagram with 5 black candles.   And summoned the dark forces, and made that fateful pact.  And that I’d actually said to that Devil – “I’d like to be able to wear girl’s clothes all my life”.  

And, because the Devil strikes a slippery deal, I’m still doing the liking, and still able to wear girl’s clothes.  And – yes - doing it all my life.  But, because the devil is in the detail, I’m still male. The DNA is still X and Y. 

And, if I had my time again, I wouldn’t change a thing.   

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